Overweight and Obese Children in the United States
April 18, 2011
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Overweight and Obese Children in the United States
Overweight and obese children are teased and often excluded from socialization with peers and other activities which cause emotional upheaval for many of them. Children grow at different rates and times, so recognizing potential problems with obesity is not easy for parents or caregivers. Overweight and obese children are a by-product of sedentary lifestyles and/or poor dietary nutrition, and if these factors continue to be ignored children will be overweight and obese throughout adulthood. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool used by healthcare professionals to measure for overweight and obese children. “BMI is the most widely accepted method used to screen for overweight and obese children and adolescents because it is relatively easy to obtain the height and weight measurements needed to calculate BMI, the measurements are noninvasive and BMI correlates with body fatness.” (www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html). In children and adolescents classified as overweight the BMI is calculated as being between the 85th and 95th percentile range for same age and sex child. Obesity is defined as BMI of greater than 95th percentile in children and adolescents for the same age and sex child. Once it has been determined that the BMI is high, the family physician or other healthcare provider, may opt to measure skin-fold thickness, dietary habits and intake, physical activity, family history, and other health screenings as indicated. An evaluation for pre-existing and obesity induced medical conditions will be completed.
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In this paper, the use of reliable sources, including scholarly research, statistical information from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) will be cited, and the effects of lifestyle behaviors that jeopardize the health and well-being of children and adolescents will be discussed. Through various studies there are contributing factors that have been identified as risk factors for the predisposition of children to be overweight or obese in the United States. These contributing factors are imbalances between calories consumed in food and beverage, and calories that children and adolescents need for normal growth and development, metabolism, and physical activities on a daily basis. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “children and adolescents that are overweight and/or obese will have increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, breathing problems, trouble sleeping, emotional problems and early death.” (www.aacap.org/page.ww?name=Obesity+in+Children). Currently in the United States, children will live shorter lives than their parents if more education on healthy lifestyles and behaviors does not occur in homes, schools, and communities. Overweight and obese children and adolescents have become the leading concern for health related issues in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) published statistical date in 2009 on the number of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the United States. According to the CDC,” in the last thirty years the number of overweight and obese children has risen from 6.5% to 19.6% in 2008. It is now estimated that between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese, and less than 1% is caused by physical ailments or disease.” (wwwc.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html). Below is a graph, developed by the CDC in OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE CHILDREN4
2009, showing the percentage of children and adolescents, in the United States, that have been identified as overweight and obese: 2009 State Obesity Rates|
State| %| State| %| State| %| State| %|
Alabama| 31.0| Illinois| 26.5| Montana| 23.2| Rhode Island| 24.6| Alaska| 24.8| Indiana| 29.5| Nebraska| 27.2| South Carolina| 29.4| Arizona| 25.5| Iowa| 27.9| Nevada| 25.8| South Dakota| 29.6| Arkansas| 30.5| Kansas| 28.1| New Hampshire| 25.7| Tennessee| 32.3| California| 24.8| Kentucky| 31.5| New Jersey| 23.3| Texas| 28.7| Colorado| 18.6| Louisiana| 33.0| New Mexico| 25.1| Utah| 23.5| Connecticut| 20.6| Maine| 25.8| New York| 24.2| Vermont| 22.8| Delaware| 27.0| Maryland| 26.2| North Carolina| 29.3| Virginia| 25.0| Washington DC| 19.7| Massachusetts| 21.4| North Dakota| 27.9| Washington| 26.4| Florida| 25.2| Michigan| 29.6| Ohio| 28.8| West Virginia| 31.1| Georgia| 27.2| Minnesota| 24.6| Oklahoma| 31.4| Wisconsin| 28.7| Hawaii| 22.3| Mississippi| 34.4| Oregon| 23.0| Wyoming| 24.6| Idaho| 24.5| Missouri| 30.0| Pennsylvania| 27.4| | | | | | | | |
The data shown in these maps were collected through the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Each year, state health departments use standard procedures to collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults. Prevalence estimates generated for the maps may vary slightly from those generated for the states by the BRFSS as slightly different analytic methods are used. (Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics. Retrieved from: www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html).
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There are many myths and truths about the rising numbers of overweight and obese children in the United States. Genetic predisposition plays a minor role in obesity. Most children and adolescents maintain a healthy weight with the right dietary intake and physical activities. Generally, not all overweight and obese children should be placed on diet program. Family Physician or other care provider should be consulted before any diet plan is implemented. Most weight control programs should be used to slow or stop weight gain, and allow the child or adolescent to grow naturally to ideal weight. Children may not always outgrow baby fat. If a child remains overweight and obese in preschool and elementary school, he/she will remain overweight and obese throughout adulthood. Children who are predisposed to obesity will not outgrow baby fat. The number one cause for this rise in obesity and overweight children is psychological and dietary behaviors exhibited today. Children and adolescents may exhibit low self esteem, depression, anxiety, low social interaction with peers, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Many children and adolescents who are overweight or obese deny they have weight problem, or only admit that they are slightly overweight. Overweight and obese children do not exercise, spending much of his/her time in sedentary lifestyles or behaviors. By the time of graduation children will have spent more time in front of the television than they have spent in the classroom. Unmet physical activity needs in children has also been identified as a lifestyle or behavior risk in predisposing children and adolescents to being overweight, and having obesity issues. Television viewing, video games, and cell phone usage promote children and adolescents to become more sedentary in lifestyle patterns and behaviors. More than half of American children and adolescents have a television set in her/his room. Children and adolescents with a television OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE CHILDREN6
in her/his room will spend an average of five more hours watching television daily in comparison with children and adolescents who do not have her/his own television. 90% of toddlers watch television, videos, and DVDs’ daily. 40% of babies, under 3 months of age watch television every day. Along with watching more television children tend to consume more high calorie snacks and beverages. Diets that are high in calories and sugar are easily obtained in vending machines. Moderation in consumption of soft drinks, candy, and dessert is difficult for many children and adolescents. Currently there is a trend towards consuming high energy drinks that contain large amounts of sugar. Families that tend to be obese have problems with diet control if not everyone on board with diet changes. Socioeconomic factors play a role in weight control issues. Families that are low income tend to be more obese since buying cheaper foods is more economically feasible. There are many factors creating the imbalances between calories consumed and calories burned during 24 hour period of time. According to Melinda Smith, M.A., and Laurence Robinson, scientific researchers, “families cook less and eat more, there is easy access to cheap, high calorie foods or junk food, food portions are larger, both in the home and restaurant, kids are playing less actively outside, watching too much television, playing more video games, or sitting for long periods at the computer, and many schools are eliminating physical education programs.” (www.helpguide.org/mental/childhood...obesity). Some children and adolescents that see themselves as being overweight or obese practice unsafe weight loss methods. These methods can include complete fasting for up to 24 hours per OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE CHILDREN7
day, taking advertised dietary aids for weight loss, or laxatives in an effort to control weigh gain. There are many health hazards related to unsafe weight control methods being used by children and adults. Many people do not realize that over-the-counter diet aids are addicting. Diuretics (water pills) cause dehydration which leads to kidney damage, or electrolyte imbalances which may cause heart failure or death, laxatives will destroy the bowel, and inducing vomiting will cause permanent esophageal injury. Today children and adolescents have growing peer pressures to fit in. They may practice excessive intake of calories for the main purpose of rewarding or soothing oneself for a variety of reasons. This maladaptive behavior leads the brain to malfunction, much like someone who is addicted to drugs or other substances. Chronic overeating causes the circuits in the brain to eventually misfire. Teresa Reyes, a research assistant in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted research of high-fat diet on mice in 2009. At the end of 20 weeks, after feeding the mice diet of high-fat foods, the mice had become obese. According to Teresa Reyes, “the study mice were found to have dramatic changes in the areas of the brain that tell us the food was rewarding. The changes made these areas less responsive to fatty foods, so the mice had to consume fat to get the same pleasure they received at the beginning of the study.” (www.helpguide.org/mental/childhood_obesity.html). In summation, it is blatantly clear that overweight and obese children will face devastating ill effects on their health and well-being. Diet and physical activity are within our control to change, thereby making a difference in the life of children and future adults. We can no longer avoid the likely adverse conditions that children and adolescents will face as obese OVERWEIGHT AND OBESE CHILDREN8
adults. Overweight and obese children and adolescents will have a major economic impact on the United States health care industry. The costs can be either direct or indirect, or both. Direct costs are preventative, diagnostic, and any treatment necessary to sustain life. Indirect costs are those resulting from loss of income from disability, or the inability to work productively. Mortality reflects the loss of income due to death. In 2008 health care costs were at $147 billion dollars for the care of obese children and adults. With a growing population of obese individuals healthcare issues are plentiful. Obese individuals are at greater risks for heart disease (excess weight places added stress on the heart), diabetes, cancers of the colon and breast, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep difficulties (large necks obstruct the airway), and degeneration of knee and hip joints. Now is the time to invest monetary resources to better educate our children and communities in the health related consequences of obesity. In order to decrease the risks of obesity in children and adolescents we must take a serious look at lifestyle patterns, behaviors and nutritional behaviors.
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